Biting The Hand That Feeds You: Food Aggression In Horses

by | 03.10.2018 | 8:25am

Feeding a horse that is food-aggressive can be scary: The horse quickly comes at the person with the food (or at another horse) with teeth bared, with what seems like no qualms about biting the hand the feeds him.

Food aggression can be grouped into three broad categories: true aggression, learned food aggression and extreme frustration.

True aggression is a reaction out of fear or trauma; the teeth make full contact–this is no idle threat. This type of aggression is rare and comes on with very little warning; this aggression situation requires professional training to overcome.

Learned food aggression typically takes place with humans and is accidentally trained into the equine. The horse is rewarded for small bad behaviors with food (like letting him eat from a bucket before it is hung on the wall) and the horse becomes increasingly more aggressive.

The final type of food aggression results from extreme frustration or arousal behavior, where the horse tosses his head, kicks out or paws toward the human to get what he wants. This is similar to how a horse would act if limited food were available.

Read more about food aggression and how to deal with it at Haygain.

  • Fred and Joan Booth

    With our herds of thoroughbreds water is the object of aggression despite their having multiple water sources.Always have to be careful with dominant fillies and mares.Have had to resort at times to using a water hose on them to enforce proper space distances between their hind quarters and ours.They don`t like getting wet even a little bit because of all the rain we have here in the winter months.

    • Its there nature, put out a number of hay piles the whole blasted herd will fued over one pile. Seems to be a rotual of who is the lead and goes down the ranks interisting to watch after a few min they settle down each group at there own pile. Each group having somewat equal stature at there piles

  • Bein

    I’d be mad too if my owner threw my hay in the mud.

  • Ida Lee

    One of my very favorite “John Henry stories” was that for 22 years, John tried to bite the hand that fed him…laughed til I cried …. but I guess if you get bitten, it’s not very funny … when I was visiting Jonabell Farms, we were there during feeding time….that barn became an absolute circus….all these beautiful Champions/Studs, especially Medaglia d’Oro, threw absolute fits….MDO is the King of his Domain and wanted to be fed first …. he was the loudest and did the most kicking …. it was hilarious …. on a smaller level, my 2 cats who get along just fine always get into some kind of fur-flying physical altercation every day at about half-hour before feeding time….it’s nuts ….

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